Speed Reads

Syria

Russia and Syria cheer Trump's troop withdrawal. Syrian Kurds are rattled. France say it's staying in.

President Trump's decision Wednesday to pull America's 2,000 troops out of Syria "overrode his top national security aides, blindsided U.S. ground commanders, and stunned lawmakers and allies," Reuters reports. Trump's tweeted announcement, criticized by many congressional Republicans as well as Democrats, is widely seen as a boon for Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria's government, and an ominous decision for Israel and America's Kurdish allies.

These perceptions are borne out in how various groups responded to Trump's unexpected announcement. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Trump's decision, saying in his annual address that "if the U.S. decided to withdraw its contingent, it has done the right thing." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the many Republicans slamming Trump over his decision, noted wryly that Russia was one of the few parties cheering the news.

Syrian lawmaker Peter Marjana characterized Trump's move as a "recognition that Syria has won." The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, America's most reliable and effective allies in battling the Islamic State in Syria, said Thursday that a U.S. pullout would be dangerous because "the war against Islamic State has not ended and the group has not been defeated." Other Kurdish commentators were more blunt. Asli Aydintasbas at the European Council for Foreign Relations said Trump was on the "verge of another historic betrayal of the Kurds."

Trump defended his decision by claiming that ISIS has been defeated, but experts and the U.S. military disagree, saying ISIS is gathering strength in some regions. France, which has about 1,000 troops in Syria, said it plans to stay because of the continued threat from ISIS. Still, one French diplomat told Reuters, "if this turns out to be as bad as it sounds, then it's a serious problem for us and the British because operationally the coalition doesn't work without the U.S."